Tag Archives: gender balance

Big Data

A big danger for Big Data – the human element

The  trend for Big Data is one of the current buzz movements with HR being encouraged to embrace every element of big data analytics. A Towers Watson survey of more than 1,000 organizations last year found HR data and analytics to be among the top three areas for HR technology spending.

Benefits of Big Data to HR 

In theory, Big Data allows HR management and executives to make more effective and informed decisions.  Identifying, analyzing and responding to employee activities and performances allows organisations to gain greater insight into employee practices, motivation and overall engagement. This will lead to better hiring decisions, higher retention levels, a greater ability to assess training needs, support succession planning, identify areas of potential attrition, and finally measure the effectiveness of training initiatives.

This mass of strategic data can help employers and hiring managers identify future employment and employee trends within their organisations, to better manage the workforce. The bottom line is big data is a fantastic opportunity to accumulate information on which to base strategic management decisions related to the talent pipeline.

Then what?

At a recent HR Influencers Workshop hosted by Andy Campbell, HCM Strategy Director, Oracle, the discussion centred around the overall effectiveness of big data. I confess to being sceptical. The reason for this is that big data is subject to human implementation. And in the whole process, different interest groups will have a different “why?”  Whose interests are being served?  What are the business objectives? Very often commercial imperatives will not be the same as those of the employees, communities, national or sector interests. We see this with AirBnB and Uber.

Big data also takes no account of the human inclination to a cherry pick and choose the bits that suit them best. As an employment lawyer reviewing a contract I submitted recently said  “Whose interests do you want me to protect?” 

Big Data and Gender Balance 

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the area of my special interest, that is of gender balance and diversity. Despite the overwhelming business case for diversity in organisations, not only are the statistics remaining static, but there is growing evidence that there is even something of a backlash against these initiatives.

Mckinse business case

Research from JUMP and Axiom Consulting would suggest that far fewer men are open to supporting gender balance initiatives than was hoped for.

” Executives and senior managers are generally more supportive and active, whereas middle managers are not. Active engagement from those who favour gender equality comes mainly from the top of the organisation (39%) rather than the employees (12%). The men who are the most resistant to more gender equality are employees (43%) and middle managers (33-36%), in particular men who are between 30 and 40 years old (40%)”

David D’Souza  Head of London & Head of Engagement, CIPD, commented in the HR Influencers  workshop, that this age group is the very one where men “settle down, start families and take-on mortgages. They become more conservative at this point in their lives.”    Read: The angry white male is not who you think  Further research from HBR carried out amongst millennials the US suggests:

“..  aserious concern that unless something is done soon to change Millennial men’s attitudes toward women, these men ascending to the C-suite may hinder — rather than advance — current efforts to reduce the discriminatory effects of gender bias.”

Unconscious bias training 

brain change

You would think that this would be an education issue then?  Unfortunately, it seems there is also a negative reaction towards diversity or unconscious bias training. Research cited in the Harvard Business Review, Why Diversity Programs Fail  by sociologists from Harvard University and Tel Aviv University, indicates that mandatory diversity training is not only ineffective but can actually produce negative results.

I have certainly encountered this personally. Even with diversity and gender balance training sponsored by a company President, the resistance within the group, came from the exact demographic referenced in the JUMP/Axiom Report. Factor in reduced engagement and interest from younger and more junior age groups, the picture is quite bleak.  I have also participated in initiatives to encourage the involvement of men. When these projects are voluntary, the engagement is sadly luke warm.

The HBR researchers also found that talent management strategies such as skill and strength tests, even led to declines in the number of women and minorities in the companies’ workforces over time. “Managers don’t like being told who they want to hire, so they often distribute tests selectively,”

Rock and hard placesRock1

So it looks like we’re caught between a rock and a hard place. Big data points to the overwhelming business value of gender balance and diversity programmes. But there are very strong indications that the big data recommendations are being ignored by the very layers of organisations tasked with every day implementation of these initiatives. Recognising that this is rooted in unconscious bias, attempts to create awareness, is sabotaged or ignored.

When my son was a toddler he was resistant to wearing new clothes, so we had to leave new outfits on his bed until he finally got used to the smell and feel of them. Until they felt familiar and safe. Is this what organic change is about, a century long process to overcome resistance to change? It looks as if we are going to have to devise small group coaching programmes to literally coax multiple generations of the value of this big data!

With big data, the big danger is that everyone interpreting it has a different “why.”  It’s all down to whose interests get priority and the human element.

Tech tackles workplace bias with new apps

Apps and platforms that tackle workplace bias in job search and recruitment

Tech is considered to be one of the least gender balanced sectors. Women are difficult to identify, attract and when that does happen, the churn levels are especially high. But it is also an area which is well placed to offer support to organisations wanting to monitor or highlight their own unconscious biases for gender and other workplace bias.

Some of the apps coming out of the tech sector offer ingenious ways to identify situations where workplace bias exist. It’s clear that although they all can’t tackle the bias directly  – they do expose it and highlight it.

Apps and platforms that tackle workplace bias

Doxa

Doxascore.com is an online dating style site, with data driven tools to match women with companies that best fit them.  Doxa helps women job seekers glean how various tech start-up companies treat their female employees. Using employee sourced survey data, the software develops a view what it is like to work at various companies, and how women fare in these workplaces. The profiles examine  compensation,  hours worked and schedules, pay gap, hours spend in meetings, the number of women on the leadership team and maternity-leave policies.

Entelo Diversity

This is a recruiting software which supports companies wanting to create more diverse teams by targeting specific demographics that are under represented in their current organisations. The algorithm reviews the online profiles of potential candidates—using data from Twitter, GitHub and other sites. “Since this information is layered on top of a candidate’s skills and qualifications, the solution provides a level of objectivity as it relates to your hiring practices. It also helps organizations demonstrate good faith efforts and comply with regulations”

FairyGodBoss

FairyGodboss is a data crowd sourcing platform to rank companies for the professional experiences and conditions they offer women. They have identified top industries for “gender equality, women’s job satisfaction, and the ones women would recommend to other women.” PR, Cosmetics and Hospitality are apparently the leading industries when it comes to women’s perceptions of gender equality at work. This gives women an opportunity to research organisations and make informed decisions based on comments of other women.

GapJumpers

Blind CVs

Blind CVs don’t tackle the root of the problem

GapJumpers is the “Voice” for business offering what they call blind auditions. The app offers companies a platform on which they can test the abilities of job applicants without knowing their gender or race , identifiers which lie at the root of bias.  I would love to hear from anyone who has experienced this process to understand how it works in practise. Blind CVs tend not to deal with the real problem, simply defer it to late in the process. But they do get candidates through the first stages which is at least a step in the right direction.

Gender decoder Kat Matfield

Gender Decoder is an app similar to Textio, it highlights linguistic gender-coding  which appears in job adverts and other documents. Research has shown that language cause women to self-deselect from applying for jobs that are advertised with masculine-coded language.This site is a quick way to check whether a job advert has the kind of subtle linguistic gender-coding that has this discouraging effect. It’s a free app and one that works well.

I’ve used it myself.  My only comment would be that some of the words that are considered to be male coded such as “confident” and “business acumen” are more of a commentary on our culture. To replace with words which are considered to be “female” is simply patronising.

Gendertimer

meetings

Gendertimer is an app that monitors the amount of “meeting air time” participants take up. Here you can track who hogs the floor to create greater gender awareness in meetings and other social situations. Research shows that the dominant group is men! Users can manually record any speaker’s gender chart the data. This leads to self-regulation for any extroverts or  “mansplainers” and the possibility of holding more inclusive  meetings.

Includeed

I saw the pitch for this software diversity dashboard at an #HRTech conference in Paris 2015. Launching in 2016 Founder Sandrine Cina says “Includeed is an online platform which brings together employees, customers and companies around the topics of diversity and equal opportunities. Includeed allows employees and customers to review companies on their efforts towards equal opportunities, letting them know what is really needed and which solutions would be beneficial for all.”

InHerSight

Inhersight.com . Users rank their workplace across 14 criteria including maternity leave, salary satisfaction and wellness. The platform’s rating system is similar to sites such as Glassdoor, TripAdvisor Inc. and other crowd sourced feedback sites. It aggregate anonymous user-generated data to guide women to make “smarter decisions”.

Just not sorry

Just not sorry is a chrome extension app which produced an international furore in the sorry/not sorry debate. This is designed to help women neutralise their emails from “girl speak”  along the lines of sorry-not-sorry-242x300 “I’m sorry to disturb you, but I’m just trying to confirm our arrangements and could you possibly let me know your plans for xx. I know this is short notice but would you mind getting back to me by xx”

My own view is that some women (and men) may find it helpful and emails should be succinct because no one will read them!

Textio

Textio is a spell check for job adverts, highlighting word choices that show gender bias or hackneyed phrases.  It suggests alternative phrasing to stop self-de-selection by certain categories of job seekers. The program discourages corporate buzz words  such as “ ninja” or “guru”   which appeal to male applicants. Once again, my concern is words which are listed as male coded need to adapt with the culture  rather than the other way around.

Unitive

Unitive  leads to is a data driven hiring decisions and monitors job applicants and the hiring process, allowing hiring managers to visualize the information behind their decisions. The platform reminds hiring managers throughout the process when they are most likely to exhibit bias. This can be when drafting job descriptions, adverts, reviewing resumes or other written documents to recognize and avoid workplace bias. Candidates compete anonymously to solve problems related to the job.

What other apps or platforms would you recommend to tackle workplace bias? I would be happy to include them.

If your organisation needs unconscious bias training – contact me.

 

 

Presence culture barrier to women’s career success

A presence culture is the current barrier to keep women out of the corporate sandbox

One of the many challenges women face in the pursuit of their careers is the widespread existence of a “presence culture” in male-dominated corporate organisations.  Here, highly visible long working hours are rewarded and therefore encouraged, as employees feel they have to make themselves available for their employer. The arrival of the smart phone means that this is extended to 24/7 corporate on-call. The presence culture, or its cousin the availability culture,  is proving to be an effective barrier to women in a corporate setting.

It’s a “families are for wimps” philosophy.

Research from Harvard Business School Prof. Robin J. Ely, suggests that men in the early stages of their career, feel they need to sacrifice family life to advance their careers. Many women on the other hand are not willing to make that undertaking and either opt out, or take a break,  when family decisions become critical. This generally happens women hit the mid 30s mark. She notes that life and career goals in older survey participants were “remarkably aligned” and talked “giving back to society” and raising healthy families.

Over work is counter productive

Overwork is very much gender driven, and intrinsic to many male dominated corporate cultures. Time scarcity seems to have become a  corporate and cultural badge of success and an indicator of professional status. Yet this is set against a backdrop of a chronic fall in employee engagement. Reports of a reduction in productivity, decreases in creativity and corresponding increases in days lost because of health issues, are now commonplace.

Ironically there has been another shift. Three decades ago more highly qualified employees were less likely to work longer hours compared to lower paid and less qualified. A 2008 Harvard Business School survey of a thousand professionals found that 94% per cent worked 50 hours or more a week, and almost half worked in excess of 65 hours a week. Attributed to the Boomer work ethics  characterizing workplace culture, with their work centric focus on hierarchy, power and prestige, successful people now work longer hours than ever. But this doesn’t explain similar overwork cultures found in Silicon Valley populated by younger men.

So where does this originate?

fred flintstone

I have a theory, so please hear me out.

The amateur anthropologist in me believes that, deprived of lions, tigers and bears, the modern young male needs a way to prove his resilience and power, outward signs of maleness and masculinity. Gender based occupational roles became further embedded in agrarian times when upper body strength was important to maintain the food supply. Women were required to produce lots of children for free labour. Revenue generation was also associated with physical strength.

In a 21st century knowledge economy that is no longer necessary.  So how are we to show strength and resilience,  in an age where the modern up-market cave is 4 bed, 4 baths, and a spear is a smart phone?  Long hours and the subsequent success of a linear career, is one way to achieve this. Hours are an easily definable metric, even though they have no relationship with the reality of modern business. Some organizations base their business model on “billable hours” and use them as a tool to measure employee success and financially reward. Pulling all-nighters gives young male careerists, bragging rights.

The reality is today men and women can both use smart phones equally well, but we are still being driven by DNA from previous eras which is no longer necessary in high-tech, knowledge economies

They are losing interest. They don’t want to be them, or like them.

Melinda is a Director in a consulting firm. Her boss she says “must see very little of his family. Even on vacations he is on his Blackberry to the office all the time. He has missed almost every milestone in his children’s lives. That’s not for me.” 

In a study from Catalyst, there was compelling research that would indicate that that companies with the highest representation of women in top are better performing. Nevertheless the percentage of women in top leadership roles remains depressingly static and low.

Wouldn’t it make sense for everyone to change corporate thinking and norms?

Cultural change

What has to change is the cultural commitment to overwork imposed on anyone wishing to continue a corporate career. This penalizes anyone who wants to have some sort of family life. It particularly impacts women who leave organizations such as these in their droves, or opt to stay in lower level jobs.  HR conferences talk about putting the “humanity back into HR” yet continually fall short.  Some businesses compensate for this culture of overwork, by providing corporate mindfulness training, concierge services and even sleeping pods

But the question is, are they band aids which treat only the symptoms, rather than addressing the core cultural malaise? There is a reason the company does your laundry.

Initiatives to chip away at this regressive mind-set seem to be working. Employee engagement is a hot topic. Sweden is introducing 6 hour days to increase employee satisfaction and productivity. Goldman Sachs has even reported promoting a record number of women to Managing Director status, which might reflect a further sea change in thinking, as their senior echelons achieve greater gender balance.

What is needed is a corporate culture where men and women can thrive, both in the workplace and outside it. This is one area where gender balanced leadership teams would surely have an impact.

 

diversity initiatives

The main reason diversity initiatives fail

Diversity initiatives and commitment

Diversity initiatives are hard to introduce and even harder to manage successfully and bring to fruition. Many would say they are the window dressing and lip service to appease campaigners. Having a diversity policy is very different to making it effective.

Neil Morrison covered this exact point in his post the other “Some are more equal than others.” He gave an astute analysis of the status of diversity initiatives, especially  gender inclusion. He suggested they were more about “undertaking institutional appeasement. Saying the right things, whilst nothing really changes.”

I agree. For the most part.

He then went on to ask “What if business is essentially a masculine construct, with male rules and the only way to succeed is by being more male than the men?”

Return on Equity

That is a depressing commentary on the state of imbalance in our corporate cultures and one that doesn’t explore alternative models.  But it did make me think.  One of the main and basic reasons why diversity initiatives fail is lack of genuine leadership buy-in. This is in spite of the fact that there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that gender balanced organizations generate higher shareholder return on equity. That ($£€) usually works as a male definition of success.

In an era where approximately 66% of the workforce are said to be disengaged, many male dominated organizations are not doing so well, are they? Think financial crisis melt down, VW & FIFA scandals.

This week also saw the announcement that Sir Philip Hampton has been appointed by the UK government to lead the push to get more women into senior roles. Because that is exactly what we need isn’t it? Another middle aged, middle class, white guy, to lead even more diversity initiatives that may be destined to fail.

To quote Einstein Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Shifting body parts

Corporations reward, promote, recruit and develop for the most part based on a masculine premise. All women know that. The 3M approach to hiring prevails. Mini-Male-Mes. Historically, gender division of labour was centred around the management of the food supply and survival, requiring upper body strength. In a knowledge based economy, the main tool in revenue generation is the iPad, an implement where a manicured nail can work as well as shoulders built like Channing Tatum.man on ipad

So a new barrier to entry for women was required.  Hours worked, and lack of time, have become the new male benchmark for success , in a 24/7 presence culture of over work. 

  Women for the most part still assume the role of C.D.O (Chief Domestic Officer,) and are less open to a life of corporate bondage. At one time the discussion would have been whether a man brought home the bacon/harvest. Now it’s how many billable hours he took to do it.

But this doesn’t mean that there can’t be a shift in these values. H.R. V.Ps  are in a leadership position to correct the “some are more equal than others” situation, more perhaps than any one else in a company, except the CEO.

The question remains why don’t they? I’ve written before about the changes that senior HR executives can lead. Let’s be clear, although HR is a pink function, the top jobs are predominantly held by men.

Two key steps forward 

  1. Assign the gender balance project to a senior position with clout, rather than dumping it on a junior, overloaded employee, with no teeth. Preferably not a middle aged, middle class, white guy.
  2. Give all HR personnel, including the VP HR, plus senior managers unconscious bias training.  I would be delighted to run my programme in your company.

Diversity initiatives require top down commitment to cultural change. If VPs of H.R. feel that the challenge of re-engineering corporate culture is too daunting, they need to bring in more women. Women can’t be what they can’t see and hear. They need someone who has walked in their shoes.

Until then, some will definitely be more equal than others. Diversity initiatives will continue to underperform or fail and sadly imbalance will remain .

 

What would you do?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unconscious bias dries up the tech talent pipeline

At a dinner party last week I was asked by a yummy mummy, what field should she encourage her daughter to go into and what academic choices would I advise she make? The kid is 8.  Now my first instinctive reaction was that this was more than a little over the top.

The poor girl should become whatever she would like to be …. right? In line with her talents and passions …

Or maybe not.

How do you know what you are good at or passionate about if you have no knowledge or experience of it?

I have recently been invited to be a VIP Blogger at the HR Tech Conference in London in March.  I tick many of the boxes: I blog, I know about HR, but in many ways I’m not technically minded.  I dropped maths and science as early as I could in school. Yet, I am above average intelligence (really), generally quick to pick things up, was a strong student and the only person in a recent Executive MBA class who could explain Pythagoras’ Theorem.

So what happened?  Rewind to home and school.

Unconscious bias

Back in the day science was for boys. We had no data then to tell us how we were being channelled, even unconsciously and even less idea if it mattered. I studied Social Sciences, breaking the curve for the time, because back then it wasn’t a “girly” subject,  with women students being out numbered probably 5:1.  At that time it was a gateway qualification for women into business and industry.

But both my brothers took straight science. They were also taught to play golf. I wasn’t.

Drought in the female talent pool

We live in an era where organisations are trying to deal with critical hard and even soft skill deficits. Companies are looking internationally for computer scientists and engineers, many of whom now come from overseas. Almost 30% of US engineers are born outside the US. Yet  although 60% of European and US graduates are women, they are not selecting these subjects with only 20% of technical and engineering graduates being women. In the UK only 6%of engineering jobs are held by women.

So even today, many years later, knowing what we know now, nothing much has changed. The tech fields, still struggle to attract women, with men dominating those industries and functions, whether home-grown or imported. Even the workforces of forward thinking companies such as Google are only 30% female. Women are continuing to move into careers with a soft skill focus (pink functions) or so-called caring professions and the gap continues to widen.

Gender balance

There are simply too few women to attract. Organisations have missed the boat. The reality is combating stereotyping and gender balance starts while the workplace is a twinkle in a pushy mother’s eye.

I have met a few women who took science qualifications in later life, but generally in my experience, the trend has been in the other direction. 40% of women for example leave engineering reducing the talent pool even further. Egg freezing benefits fail to address the real issues and come far too late in the talent pipeline process.

So good for the pushy mother at the dinner party. Not so much pushy, as savvy and strategic.

Identifying effective opportunities to deal with these challenges is complex, involving paradigm shifts in thinking in many areas of our society. All are integrated and almost inseparable. It will inevitably involve creating effective gender balance policies to make any dent on our unconscious bias riddled culture:

  • To parents: encourage sons and daughters to explore all sides of their intelligence and discourage a split into girly subjects and activities, separating them from those for boys
  • To education authorities: making science compulsory to a reasonably senior level,  also gender neutral and fun. In some educational systems high school graduation is impossible without maths, a science, as well as arts subjects.
  • To the media and tech companies themselves: Kill the mad, reclusive, on-the – spectrum, scientist stereotype. Make science cool and sexy, not geeky. Create characters for movies, cartoons and games that show that women can be scientists and engineers, without being unfeminine. Not forgetting boys can be caring, without jeopardising their masculinity.
  • To organisations:  make women employees highly visible. Give them and make them mentors. Send them to schools as ambassadors and make sure they are on stage as conference speakers internally and externally especially when talking about diversity. Create return-ships for women who have taken parenting leave, so that they stay with their companies, rather than deferring having children. Someone still has to take that child to the dentist.  

Of the 9 new jobs anticipated for 2030 – how many require tech skills?

I predict a good profile for the future will be a  technical subject (of some yet to be created discipline, which we currently know nothing about) languages (no, not everyone will prefer to speak English) and business training.

Only time will tell if I am right!

Why I’m bored with boards

Missed point
It seems that every time I  pick up a newspaper, click on a link or read a blog there something to be read about women and boards.  And I’m getting bored.  Now this may seem a little hypocritical coming from someone like me, as I have been very vocal over the years in advocating for women in their pursuit of senior roles and do indeed write about it myself.  Despite what you might be thinking,  my position actually remains unchanged. There is a wealth of senior female talent which organisations and global economies fail to tap into, in my view to their detriment. So those initiatives should clearly continue.

However, when you look at the overall scheme of things, whether applied to men or women, organisations are pyramids and there are very few open positions at the top – for anyone at all.  But sometimes it is important not to miss the core issue. The primary danger zone for women professionally, lies much further downstream where the numbers are much higher. The real support and mentoring that women need, is in those more junior, hazy, grey areas, 7-12 years into their careers.

Bad stats
Whichever statistics we use, the numbers don’t look good. 60% of European women are graduates and yet the number occupying senior positions hovers depressingly around 14% depending on the country being cited, and if you venture into Germany, a grim 3%. Somewhere in between C-Suite and entry-level, the corporate drop out rate soars and highly qualified women, find themselves making critical career decisions, very often without any long-term strategy. They leave, or give in and accept their fates consigned to the margins of the organogram. Very often they experience the “Mommy Penalty” earning lower salaries than their male counterparts.  Women with MBAs are one of the hardest hit demographics.  They find themselves in the double bind of having to negotiate their role and manage expectations,   not just in the workplace, but also within their own relationship and families.

The new dad
Interestingly there is now some research which suggests that change is perhaps on the horizon, as a result of shifting expectations from men as well.  A Fatherhood Study carried out by Boston College tells us “According to a study by the National Study of the Changing Workforce, for the first time since 1992, young women and young men do not differ in terms of their desire for jobs with greater responsibility (Galinsky, Aumann, & Bond, 2008). As a result, young women may be less prone to be the “accommodating spouse” in two-career couples, placing their career aspirations second to that of their male spouses”.

The study suggests that men also have different expectations. “Their wives are likely to be at least as well if not better educated, just as ambitious as they are, and make more money than they do. More importantly, these men feel that being a father is not about being a hands-off economic provider

Cultural changes
It would seem that although the expectations of both men and women are changing, organisations (perhaps still run by Baby Boomers, raised in father centric households) are not adapting fast enough to the cultural shifts in the societies around them. Developing economies need not just an increased birth rate vital to support a rapidly aging population, but for women to actively contribute to economic growth, not when they are older, but now, today. The economy of the euro zone for example has been predicted to grow 16 per cent if women were in formal employment as much as men.

Additionally, a new generation of both men and women are looking for better work/life balance and no longer sees the default leadership setting as male and the female setting as “atypical”.  So perhaps the business model for corporate culture, which not just creates a gender divide but actually relies on it,  needs to be re-examined rather than emulated.

The most demanding issue is not only about getting women onto boards, surely a symptom and result of what is happening lower down the scale, it’s also about combining organisational imperatives with the needs of both men and women in the early stages of their career, as they cope with the natural demands life makes on them.